Donald Trump's attack on Ghazala Khan shows he knows nothing about Muslim women


On Saturday, Donald Trump insinuated that Ghazala Khan—the wife of Khizr Khan, whose speech at the Democratic National Convention shamed Trump for his anti-Muslim bigotry—had stayed silent during the speech because her religion did not permit her to talk.

“If you look at his wife, she was standing there,” Trump told ABC News. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”

In fact, as Ghazala Khan told MSNBC later, she had not said anything because she found it too painful to speak about her late son, Humayun Khan, who was killed while serving in Iraq.

Trump’s comments about Muslim women fed directly into the stereotype that they are all oppressed and not able to voice their opinions.

When I heard them, I instantly thought of the first time I held a microphone and spoke to a crowd in Chicago. Back in 2011, when Syrian women were being detained and tortured by the Assad regime for chanting for democracy and freedom, I decided to raise awareness and speak on their behalf.

I did not ask for permission from anybody. I have since spoken at more than 40 lecture halls, protests, high schools, and universities. My religion does not forbid me from speaking up and being a voice for the voiceless in the world.

Trump, on the other hand, has made it clear what he thinks of women. In one book, Trump 101: The Way to Success, he compared them to objects: “Beauty and elegance, whether in a woman, a building, or a work of art, is not just superficial or something pretty to see,” he wrote.

I’ve brushed off many of Trump’s Islamophobic comments, but this one stuck with me. I spent the entire night thinking about it. I couldn’t help but think of the many Muslim women I have seen voice their opinions with strength and empowerment.

Here are just a few of them:

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for children and women’s rights who has spoken to the world about her battle against extremism. Yousafzai was the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, who will become the first Muslim American fencer to wear the hijab at the Olympics this August.

Dalia Mogahed, Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU),  an organization that supports Muslim community development and amplifies the voices of American Muslims.

Linda Sarsour, a true New Yorker, a civil rights activist and a mother of three. She is the Director of the Arab American Association of New York.

And that’s just the very, very beginning of the story.

Mr. Trump, Muslim women are speaking up and aren’t waiting for anyone’s permission to hold a microphone to address a crowd—especially yours.

Alaa Basatneh is a human-rights activist and a writer at Fusion focusing on the Arab world. She is the protagonist of the 2013 documentary “#ChicagoGirl.”

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